Hi I’m Nicky, a Blind International para dressage rider, from Surrey.
I was born with a deteriorating eye condition called Stargardt’s which was first diagnosed at the age of 11. I was educated in main stream school and college as I was able to get by with large print papers. My strengths at school and college were maths and business studies, but as soon as leaving college I started my equine career.
Have you ever forgotten a piece of tack?
“Gary forgot my saddle for one of my lessons with Charlotte Dujardin. I made him go and grovel to borrow one!”
Stargardt’s is a very rare condition of the eye where the macular region degenerates eventually leaving people with no central vision and a very small amount of peripheral vision. For reasons no one knows, my condition seems to be particularly severe. I lost my central vision in my early twenties and am now left with only being able to see shapes against a contrasting background to the side and underneath. I have total night blindness and also suffer badly with glare. However, this has never stopped me being able to achieve anything I have wanted to do…
My family have never had any interest in horses and still to this day my mother is absolutely terrified of them!!! I went for my first riding lesson at the age of 8 to my local riding school and from that day onwards I was totally hooked!
I was very fortunate to have a pony to share at the age of 11 and I owned my first horse at the age of 14. My horse was kept at our local DIY yard and every day before and after school I would be there. This horse was a high level show jumper that needed a slightly easier life and he taught me all the basics about show jumping. From there, I started my show jumping career. I was reasonably successful and competed for my school and college. I continued jumping until my early twenties when my sight just got too bad to continue. Throughout this time I had worked as a groom at an International show jumping and eventing yard. My ambition had always been to be the best groom in the world and never to compete myself on the International stage. I have always been very competitive, but never dreamed I could be at the top of my game.
“I never feel scared riding, as I have ridden all my life, and it’s like second nature.”
My dressage career started in my early twenties when my sight was dwindling. Even though my passion was now with eventing, I went to work for an International dressage rider. From here onwards, I owned and trained dressage horses specialising in backing and training young horses. I had no idea about any opportunities available for para riders so I paid someone to compete my horses for me. It wasn’t until I owned a horse, Welt Santa Cruz, that was so naughty and literally would not let anyone else get on him that I investigated competing again myself.
In 2008, I entered my first para dressage competition and was quickly talent spotted by the late Jane Goldsmith. She took me under her wing and before my feet could touch the ground, I was competing on the International stage! My first major achievement was being selected to ride at the test event in London in 2011. From here, I was taken on my now exciting journey of the the World Class programme set up to fund and support up and coming para athletes.
I have since had much National and International success and am now 1 of 8 riders in the country on the World Class Podium squad. We are very fortunate to now have the horses at home and still to this day I look after them myself….